Who're You Calling a Cult? Part 1
Governing the Modern Day Congregation

Who're You Calling a Cult? Part 2

Jehovah's Witnesses don't fit the traditional definition of cult, but they do fit the new and improved definition [people we don't like] devised by Evangelical Christians and Evangelical Atheists, two overbearing groups who otherwise have nothing in common. If a website is run by members of either group, therefore, you can be sure we are a 'cult'.

Of the two groups, atheists are, at least, not hypocritical. Look, they don't like God; they're real clear on that. God is a delusion, they say, and worship a sham. So it's wholly consistent that a group like Jehovah's Witnesses, who agency, would cause them to use the C-word worship seriously, and in a manner influenced by biblical interpretation of a human governing 
 
Not so with evangelicals. There is hypocrisy here, or at least, Bible ignorance. If they were organized in a Christian manner themselves, they would not be calling JWs a cult....they would be imitating them.
 
Doing his utmost to goad me, one character (alas...I no longer recall just where) wants to know what I would do if I disagreed with JWs about something. Would I keep it to myself? Or would I speak out? I can start a debate club at my church, he tells me. Can ya, Tom Sheepandgoats, huh?? Well, can ya? Or would ya be scared?!
 

It's axiomatic to him that the Church be patterned on Western values, and in the West we have RIGHTS! First and foremost is the right to free speech. Robust debate! Can anything be more healthy? Wasn't it Patrick Henry who declared: "I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it!" How American! Mom! Baseball! Apple Pie! Flags a'flying! Surely that must be in the Bible!
 
Each time the Watchtower says something modeled on Bible principles, but not ideals of the West, it prompts vicious attacks from those who assume Western values ought to be the template of Christianity. But Patrick Henry was not one of the Twelve Apostles. He might not agree with verses like:
 
"It is necessary to shut the mouths of [self-styled authorities], as these very men keep on subverting entire households ..." Titus 1:11
 
...stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer    1 Tim 1:3
 
How's that for free speech? How's that for robust debate?
 
You cannot read the New Testament without being struck by the apostles' efforts to prevent sects, divisions, dissention, and at the extreme, apostasy. Christianity started in unity. They wanted to keep it that way. It's a constant theme:
 
Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought. For the disclosure was made to me about you, my brothers, by those of [the house of] Chloe, that dissensions exist among you. What I mean is this, that each one of you says: “I belong to Paul,” “But I to Apollos,” “But I to Cephas,” “But I to Christ.” The Christ exists divided. Paul was not impaled for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I am thankful I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.  1 Cor 1:10-15
 
I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.    Acts 20:29-30
 
I [the Apostle John] wrote something to the congregation, but Diotrephes, who likes to have the first place among them, does not receive anything from us with respect. That is why, if I come, I will call to remembrance his works which he goes on doing, chattering about us with wicked words. Also, not being content with these things, neither does he himself receive the brothers with respect, and those who are wanting to receive them he tries to hinder and to throw out of the congregation.   3 John 9-10
 
Now....you know, and I know, that it's not human nature to agree. Furthermore, small disagreements quickly widen into large disagreements. Yet, Jesus disciples were to be "one flock, one shepherd." So there was a human governing agency in the first century congregation, consisting first of the apostles, and it was through this agency that Christian unity was preserved. Every Christian was encouraged to know the scriptures, even before they were all assembled into a 'Bible.' The earliest Christians had known Jesus personally. All this worked toward unity and agreement, to be sure. But as Christians increased in number from 12 individuals to congregations throughout the contemporary world, do you really think unity would remain unmarred without a human authority to explain, interpret, and settle disagreements? And if so then, all the more so today when congregations exist around the globe.
 
If Jehovah's Witnesses seem "authoritarian," it's mostly because churches, reflecting general society, have tired of authority and have cast it aside. Consumerism reigns in most churches today, so says Haddon Robinson:
 
"Too often now when people join a church, they do so as consumers. If they like the product, they stay. If they do not, they leave. They can no more imagine a church disciplining them than they could a store that sells goods disciplining them. It is not the place of the seller to discipline the consumer. In our churches we have a consumer mentality."
 
There's a price to pay for casting aside discipline in favor of consumerism: people cater to and start to spread their own novel interpretations, their own ways of doing things, their own outlook on what it means to be a Christian, and before long 2 Pet 2:1-2 comes to pass:
 
"...there also came to be false prophets among the [Old Testament Israelites], as there will also be false teachers among you. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves. Furthermore, many will follow their acts of loose conduct, and on account of these the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively"    2 Peter 2:1-2

I vividly recall circuit overseers and the like pointing out that "50 years ago the difference between Jehovah's Witnesses and churchgoers in general was doctrinal, not moral." Time was when there was little difference between the two groups as regards conduct. Today the chasm is huge. Can internal governing not be a factor?
 
I don't even like that question posed up there in that 4th paragraph: 'could I start a debate group if I disagreed with this or that teaching?' I don't like the premise. Christians aren't inclined to debate. They've signed on to a manner of thinking that holds truths aren't established that way. They tend to reflect the "wisdom from above," which "is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey..."  Jas 3:17. They allow themselves to be 'readjusted" through the influence of humans, as one might expect from reading Eph 4:11-13:
 
And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ...
 
They respond, even when "not favorably disposed," to a teaching style such as Paul encouraged Timothy to cultivate: "....a slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all, qualified to teach, keeping himself restrained under evil, instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed....."  2 Tim 2:24-25
 
Think of it as riders on a bus. Ideally, everyone's happy as can be. Singin the camp song and all. In practice, though, not all are that way. They fret and grumble about their schedule. They don't feel all that great. The weather outside sucks. The passenger next to them has some annoying ways. The bus is too hot or cold....ya wanna adjust the temp controls? And....couldn't the driver have avoided that pothole? Did he really mean to take that last turn? That's really the best way? It's not so serious as to warrant getting off the bus (always an option), mind you....after all, they didn't have to get on in the first place, but there can be minor murmurings about this or that.
 
All this is human. All this is easily absorbed by the congregation. It's not ideal, but it's life. You can do these things. What you can't do is grab the wheel of the bus. You can't stand up in the aisle and yell "fire!" You show reasonable decorum. If I disagree with this or that point, I say to myself: am I really so immodest as to think what is needed in the brotherhood is 7 million carbon copies of ME? I allow myself to be 'readjusted.' If I can't fully get into something, I don't fully get into it. I wait, pending a possible time when I can, submitting myself to godly instruction in the meantime. (1 Cor 16:16, Heb 13:17)
 
Some won't like this illustration. "There is no driver," they'll grouse. "There is no bus. It's just me 'n Jesus." But the verses above show otherwise. There is authority in the Christian congregation. Human authority. Surely you can accede to that without being a "cult".

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Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

 

 

Comments

ChrisL

Korah, Dathan, Abiram and several others felt just as that fellow did, and decided to form a "debate group". Please read all about it in the 16th chapter of Numbers. God encourages it just as much today as he did then.

hugenoggin

So true ChrisL....that 'debate team' never recovered from that loss did they... Human nature I guess to want to take the lead and be the 'one' to make the change, but the example in Numbers clearly shows that persons, even with the best of intentions, can really put themselves in a dangerous position by trying to take the lead, instead of letting Jesus lead the congregation of God's people...

Ragoth

Hey Tom,

The quote you attribute to Patrick Henry is actually from a biography of Voltaire by Evelyn Beatrice Hall called "Friends of Voltaire." The quote is often attributed to Voltaire himself, but it's more likely that it was a summary of Voltaire's views actually written by Evelyn Hall. Depending on whether her summary is valid or not (and, to a large degree, I think it is), the quote is much more a reflection of the French Enlightenment around Voltaire than a reflection of American politics or ideology. I mean, I personally would love for more people in this country to actually have that sort of sentiment, but it's depressingly rare. Much more often the idea is "I disagree with what you say and you absolutely should never say it. Get in line."

Just a bit of historical trivia.

-Ragoth

tom sheepandgoats

Or "I disagree with what you say and I'll ruin you so you'll never be able to say it again," to take the political application.

Jason Chamberlain

Let's put the question a different way. The Bereans were commended because they looked at the Scriptures to make sure that what they were being taught was true. Let's say for argument's sake that you took it upon yourself to learn Koine Greek and after reading John 1:1 and various scholars' approaches to it decided that it is best translated without the indefinite article that has caused so much strife with Arians over the years. What do you do with that?

I am all for unity. It's impossible not to be and remain biblical. But what happens if the leadership defining unity is wrong? Then what? Does that mean that we must misunderstand something because they are certainly right and we have to change? Does it mean that we should seek reform of the institution like Luther did? Or does it mean that we just need to leave and find a place that we believe to be more biblical?

tom sheepandgoats

It's not the case, IMO, that scriptures point to acceptance of the Trinity. Rather, pre-existing belief in the Trinity defines how one interprets scripture. Many (most?) who insist upon the Trinity "accepted the Lord" in an intense, emotional, religious experiece....e.g. Billy Graham's 'come down and be saved!' After that, it doesn't really matter what the Bible says; everything is seen in a Trinitarian light. It has even affected how Trinitarian scholars translate the scriptures.

I agree with the comments of Jason Beduhn, regarding translations:

"Surprisingly, only one, the NW, adheres to the literal meaning of the Greek, and translates "a god." "Translators of the KJV, NRSV, NIV, NAB, NASB, AB, TEV and LB all approached the text at John 1:1 already believing certain things about the Word... and made sure that the translations came out in accordance with their beliefs." He also responds to those who charge the NWT translators with doctrinal bias: "It may very well be that the NW translators came to the task of translating John 1:1 with as much bias as the other translators did. It just so happens that their bias corresponds in this case to a more accurate translation of the Greek":

https://tinyurl.com/pnyz36

As we see it, modeling oneself after the Boreans leads to rejecting that doctrine in the first place, and a host of other commonplace religious teachings that serve to make God incomprehensible to those who might worship him:

https://tinyurl.com/6xrkn2

To answer your immediate question, incorporating Trinity into JW beliefs would not be like grabbing hold the wheel of the bus to steer it here or there, as aluded to in the final paragraph. It would be like slamming the transmission into reverse. It represents such a 180 degree change that I don't think anyone would try to do it. They'd leave - to go independent or to find a group with whom they agree.

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